Malt for breweries and distilleries is most often made from barley or wheat. When barley grains are soaked in water (steeping) the germination process starts; a process similar to what happens naturally when the grain in placed in earth. During the germination enzymes develop that can degrade starch into short chained sugars such a glucose and fructose. Alpha amylase is a key enzyme in the starch degradation process. The malting is stopped in a process called kilning in which the malt is heated and dried to remove water. The kilning step is often performed at rather low temperature to maintain to enzymes in the malt. After this treatment, the malt is stable and can be stored for a long time.
It is critical to control the alpha amylase activity in malt as this determines the outcome of the mashing at breweries and distilleries. Malt houses often provide malt with different enzyme activities that enable different brewing results. Phadebas Amylase Test has been used for many years, both at malt suppliers and breweries, to get a precise determination of the alpha amylase activity. Phadebas was listed as a harmonised method for α-amylase determination in malt in Analytica by the European Brewing Convention* already back in 1987.
* European Brewing Convention, Analytica EBC, 4th ed; 1987. Method 4.12.3 Alpha-Amylase (Colorimetric Method)